Sounding

Archive for December, 2009

The Importance of Computer Silence

by on Dec.07, 2009, under creativity

It’s been a while since I’ve sincerely blogged, as I’ve been somewhat obscured by computing lately. You’d think with all these computers around me, I’d be blogging all the time; but what I really want is less of them around me so that it feels like something more special than just another thing I do on the computer.

For example, this weekend was my birthday weekend (born in 1971, for those counting), and it felt very good going on “computer silence” for two days after the Friday night party. In fact, I didn’t do much of anything except plan my set for next Saturday, play Super Mario Bros Wii, and work through the pileup of recorded Showtime serials with my wife.

A good deal of people I know that make music on computers do so as a second life to their work day on them. Multitasking on computing problems at the same time as applying yourself creatively – and otherwise using software, interfacing with recording gear, attached hard drives, sound drivers, etc… all while you’re also concentrating on finishing that perl script for your job (if you’re lucky enough to be in an environment where your work computer can double as a creative tool), and of course keeping up with “the scene” in blog format or forums or twitter and social networks, not to mention keeping up with what feels like an exponentially growing volume of album releases – is not a very sustainable way to work.

Switching between brain processes like this often makes me feel fractured, like I am not quite in touch with the things that I identify with creating art. The myriad problems of computer technology are an infinitely complex layer of interaction which I can frankly do without. The irony of this is that before I went into a highly disciplined performance school, I had a “designed” undergrad major in music, focusing on Composition and Music Technology (a type of degree that’s now been heavily formalized in many universities, and is no longer rare at all). From that point forward, technology became a very important part of my musical description.

At some point, however, technology took over. It’s taken me many years to see in retrospect that what I was doing isn’t quite what I loved to do as a performer and an artist, and splitting my attention between things wasn’t helping my attempts at doing great things. As an extension of that, I believe my will to do original things was diminished by the layer of complexity and confusion brought on by an intervening computer operating system. Pretty soon, the issues I faced in my day-job became the same issues I faced in music making on the computer, and it wasn’t long that I couldn’t handle that union of cognitive space. I’ve now found myself not wanting to open a computer at all after I get home from work.

This may have a lot to do with circumstantial things: my day-job work environment isn’t great (bright fluorescent lamps, no privacy, high stress when on-call, poor management, general chaos), and I’ve had to sideline my musical activities in lieu of getting back up to speed on things I need for this job. When I get home, I don’t want to do much except unravel from the day, my motivation to create is low – not necessarily because I don’t want to make music, but because the enormous task of what to do with it after I’m done isn’t something I feel like dealing with any longer.

So I’m looking forward to this week in particular: in the coming days I’ll continue preparation and practicing for my set on 12/12, where I can just play music and not worry about computers in the process. I have some hurdles to overcome – fixing/patching the new modular so that at least *some* of it works, paring down the complexity of my instruments – so I will be forced to focus on music in the way I love: brainpower in the pursuit of creativity.

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